Unable to shut down or restart your Mac? Here’s how to fix it

If you have unsaved work in an app or some critical background activities that require your attention, your Mac may not turn off even after clicking Shut Down or Restart, as it needs to complete these tasks before powering off.

Usually, the fix is quick, and this tutorial explores all the solutions to help you turn off your Mac or restart it, even if it refuses to do so.

Mac unable to shut down alert

Save your pending work

Your Mac won’t turn off if you have unsaved documents in apps like Pages, Word, etc. In these cases, when you try to power off your Mac, all open apps will close, but the icon of such an app that is blocking the shut down will jump in the Mac’s Dock, requesting you to give it attention.

Simply click that app icon from the Dock and save the document or confirm that you don’t want to save it.

Save or delete document in Pages on Mac

Once this is done, you should be able to shut down or restart your Mac normally.

Attend to open browser tab alerts

Like the apps we mentioned above, some websites also need confirmation before they can be closed. And until you attend to their alert, you won’t be able to close that tab, quit that browser, or turn off your computer.

For example, if you’re listening to YouTube Music in any browser like Safari, Chrome, or Firefox and try to turn off your Mac, it will first ask for your confirmation to leave the YouTube Music website. Similarly, sites where you fill out forms, enter text and edit something may also show such behavior.

When something like this happens on your Mac, you should see that browser app icon jump in the Dock. Simply click it and confirm that you’re trying to leave that website.

Close website tab before Mac can shut down

Quit all apps

Opened apps appear in your Mac’s Dock and have a small dot below their icon, signifying that app is currently open. However, some apps or utilities running in the background may not be visible in the Dock even if they are open.

Depending on the app, these open apps may block you from powering off your Mac.

To fix this, check your Mac’s top menu bar, and you should see the tiny app icon. Click that and then look for the Quit button or the settings icon > Quit. Once this app is closed, try restarting or shutting down your Mac, and it should happen without any issues.

Quit app from Mac menu bar

Note: If you don’t see the button to quit the app, right-click on the app icon in the menu bar, and then you may see it.

Force quit all apps

If quitting an app that was blocking shut down doesn’t work, go ahead and force quit all apps.

  1. Click the Apple icon  and choose Force Quit or press the Command + Option + esc keys together to enter the Force Quit window.
  2. From here, select one app and then press Command + A to select all.
  3. Finally, click Force Quit.
Force quit all apps on Mac

After this, click the Apple icon  and choose Shut Down or Restart.

Check for downloads in the background

Quickly check if a web browser like Safari, Chrome, or Firefox, or an app like App Store or Setapp is downloading something in the background. And if it is, you may have to pause or cancel the download before clicking the shut down button.

Is anything installing in the background?

It’s also possible that an app is being installed which is blocking your Mac from powering off. In this case, pause the installation, wait for it to finish, or force shut down your Mac (explained at the end).

Make sure installer windows aren’t open

If you started an app installation but didn’t complete it, look for any installer icon in the Dock or Desktop, and complete the installation or end it. After that, you should be able to turn off your computer.

Eject external drives

In rare cases, you may be unable to shut down your Mac until you eject any connected drives and peripherals or finish/cancel the ongoing data transfer.

Force a shutdown

By now, you should be able to turn off or restart your Mac successfully. However, if your computer is frozen, not responding, showing the beach ball icon for ages, or the mouse pointer is stuck, then your only solution is to press and hold your Mac’s power button until it shuts down.

After that, wait for at least one minute before pressing the power button to switch on your Mac.

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